John Kennedy died 47 years ago today. If you're old enough, you remember where you were.
I was in London. Big Ben normally tolls the hours, tolls once a minute when the king or queen has died. It tolled once a minute that day. Cab drivers, hearing my American accent, wouldn't take my money.
Kennedy had a mixed presidency--failure at the Bay of Pigs, when American-backed Cuban exiles tried to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro; success when the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from Cuba in the face of a U.S. blockade. But the other thing his presidency had was glamour. He and his wife and two young children were memorably telegenic. She later nicknamed their time in the White House "Camelot" and few disagreed.
The national mood was upbeat. "The torch has been passed to a new generation," he said in his Inaugural Address, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden...to assure the survival and success of liberty."
Now we have another memorably attractive family in that house--the Obamas--probably the most glamorous since the Kennedys. And yet the national mood seems very different. People, as best this retired reporter can tell, don't want to pay the price, bear the burden. They'd like to sit down and rest a while.
I have no idea why.